Fire 1 Sporting Kansas City 0 - Recap and Ratings

A third consecutive win against Eastern Conference competition should serve notice that the Fire are a legitimate playoff contender for those that questioned whether or not they were a "top 5" team in the division.  The latest victory, a hard fought 1-0 decision over Sporting Kansas City raises the club's record to 8-5-3 and pulls them to within two points of KC in the table and to within three points of the top (DC and NY are currently at 30).

Despite a 62-38 disadvantage in possession and being outshot by KC 27-10 the club was able to withstand pressure while patiently waiting for a chance to do some damage on a counter and the result was a confidence building and impressive win.  Sean Johnson's heroics played a big part in the preserving the victory but it should be noted that these are the types of results that Chicago has been lacking for much of the last two-plus seasons.  Statement wins have been hard to come by and this may have been one of them.  With the season nearing the half way mark the Fire may be on their way to a playoff return.

If the club can manage to have Sebastian Grazzini come back motivated and happy and is able to add the threat of a top striker things could get very interesting.

Player Ratings

GK Sean Johnson (8) - Johnson is rounding into top form with and should easily be considered Man of the Match in this game.  Five saves including a few of the spectacular variety - a diving stop of Kamara's header in the 76th and a tip away against Kamara again in stoppage time were the best.  His distribution was even more selectively cautious throughout the match.  The only negative was a goal kick that sailed out of bounds in the 89th minute.  Johnson can be a spectacular shot stopper and this was one of those nights.

D Dan Gargan (6) - Started at left back due to Gonzalo Segares' red card suspension and did well enough to help keep KC's fast, physical attackers at bay although he played out of his natural position.  Started the counter attack that led to the Fire's goal.  Moved to his customary right back spot in the 78th minute and cleared a dangerous ball away in the 88th.

D Arne Friedrich (6) - His first start since returning from injury sees the Fire earn their third clean sheet of the season.  With time the combination of Friedrich and Berry should be difficult to beat in the air but KC had chances on several headers that were either sent wide or defended well enough by the Fire to obstruct a clear shot.  Had a decent cross served into the penalty area late in the first half.  Came out in the 78th minute and was seen being attended to by trainers on the bench.

D Austin Berry (6) - A diving clearance in the 47th and another clearance in the 93rd prevented potentially dangerous balls from finding the target.

D Jalil Anibaba (7) - Although he seems to be the odd man out when Segares returns and Friedrich is at full strength, Anibaba was strong in this match particularly in the first half as KC looked to grab a lead.  A clean tackle on Sapong prevented an early chance, a good pass in the 20th sprung Nyarko for an opportunity, and numerous clearances in the penalty area highlighted the night.  Moved to center back in the 78th after Friedrich left the match.

M Logan Pause (6) - Sporting held a majority of the possession but much of it wasn't truly dangerous until they had to push for an equalizer.  There wasn't much from Graham Zusi in this match and the Pause/Pardo combination should get the credit for it.

M Pavel Pardo (6) - Still seems a shade less effective than he was in the second half of last season.  Had some issues keeping up with KC attackers in foot races but a beautiful slide tackle in the 94th kept the Fire out of danger late.

M Patrick Nyarko (6) - Didn't have as many chances as usual offensively as the Fire looked committed to sitting back and waiting for a counter.  Better in combination play offensively in the first half but continued to chip in defensively in the second.

M Marco Pappa (7) - He's stepped up his game since a slow start to the season but he's been on it since late April.  Pappa will finish when presented with an opportunity and the 58th minute counter after a feed from Gargan was textbook, although some lax defending from Kansas City helped the cause.  A cross to Oduro in the 16th provided a great chance to score.  With temperatures over 100 degrees and a match on Tuesday he was subbed out in the 64th presumably in order to keep him fresh for the Houston game.

M Chris Rolfe (6) - Got the start in the "Grazzini" role as the underneath central player but there wasn't much going forward for the Fire in the first half.  Came back in the 30th minute to defend and provided a tackle to stop a Sapong chance, his intelligent layoff for Pappa on the counter in the 58th led to the goal, and a hard shot in the 91st forced Nielsen into a save.  Moved to right mid in the 64th minute.

F Dominic Oduro (5) - There weren't many opportunities for Oduro other than a good look and volley in the 16th that was saved by Nielsen.  A wayward cross attempt halted a chance in the 25th.

M Alex (5) - Entered in the 64th and didn't waste any time showing off some fancy footwork in the 75th minute but he followed that up with a low rolling cross/shot that was easily handled by Nielson.  Did show some flashes of why people who saw him play in pre-season are excited about him though.

D Hunter Jumper (6) - Came in for Friedrich in the 78th and provided a timely stop in the 88th which could have been dangerous.  Almost victimized by an amazing shot attempt from Bunbury in the 92nd minute as his post-up turn and shoot sailed inches wide of the post.

M Rafael Robayo (6) - I'm not sure how much longer he'll be around but he's come into the last two games and done exactly what they've needed him to do.  After entering in the 82nd for Nyarko he provided a pass leading to Rolfe's shot on goal and even cleared a shot away in the 96th minute.  One negative moment involved a bit of ball watching in the 94th that led to a Chance Myers shot attempt.

C Frank Klopas (7) - Playing on the road without Sebastian Grazzini and Gonzalo Segares seemed to be a huge task against one of the top teams in the East.  The game plan worked to perfection tactically and every substitution contributed to the victory.  Sporting had only lost once all year at home coming into this match so a unified team effort was required.  They got it.  Klopas also deserves some credit for keeping the squad focused amid the Grazzini-gate distraction this past week.

Next Up : Another Eastern Conference battle in Houston on Tuesday night



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  • What a game by Johnson. He has been playing extremely well lately. I wish he would not distribute so quickly out of the back to the central midfielders. There were a few occasions that he rolled it out to Pause and he had 2 defenders right on top of him. I understand playing quick and countering but that should be to the outside and further up the field.

    Oduro was awful last night. Cant keep possession and wasnt making the runs that he needed to make. Klopas should have taken him off instead of Nyarko in this match.

    Alex looked lively at times. He needed to play quicker at times but it was his first game and he should glimpses of what he can do when called upon.

    Berry is a great find for us. He is a rock solid defender that should be playing every game even when everyone is healthy. I wouldnt mind seeing that back four every game with Sega switched in for Gargan. Anibaba gets forward enough for us and he is a good, quick defender on the wings.

    We have been playing pretty well and that was a good win for us last night. Hopefully this form will continue and we can keep rolling.

  • In reply to Rubberbandman189:

    Johnson's been outstanding for the last two games. It seemed like he was deliberately being more cautious on his distribution last night by rolling the ball forward to the closest player in red. KC plays such high pressure that there seemed someone right on top of the Fire player as soon as the ball was received but I thought it was an improvement over what he's done in the past.

    I think Berry is good enough that he will have a USMNT look at some point in his career.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Ill agree with the fact that it was better than before. I think he just needs to think a little bit more with his distribution. Id like to see him use his side volley punt that is almost inch perfect at times. That can be such a weapon with Oduro's speed on the counter. He shouldn't do it everytime but a couple times in a game would be nice to try and catch them sleeping. I dont think we use Oduro's speed enough at times. We have a really nice setup for a counter on this team. Nyarko, Pappa, Oduro and Grazzini is always lurking up top so we should try and exploit that more often as a team. It was working last night for us and I wouldnt mind seeing it more oftern.

  • Any more scuttlebutt about new additions,?
    All of a sudden things appear quiet, don't the team have to make
    openings in the roster by midnight or they'll eat salaries of cut players.
    All the drama and speculation for the past week and nothing to show for it. Typical Fire BS. again?
    Though the squad the way it stands now should be able to make the playoffs, but added help on the top would make things easier.

  • In reply to lonecoyote:

    The deadline for picking up player salaries for the entire season is July 1. If there are any cuts they probably won't be announced until Monday.

    I'd say there's a good chance there will be more to talk about come Monday morning.

    The transfer window for adding internationals closes on July 27 so the speculation isn't over yet.

  • That was a huge 3 points at LiveStrong Park after SKC coming from 3 days rest due to competing in the US Open Cup game vs. Dayton. I would like to know why didn't Klopas sub out Oduro for Alex so he can slide Rolfe on top? Oduro was a non factor the whole game and Rolfe was more of a threat IMO.

  • great win last night, but i can't see us having a lot of success the rest of the season unless we can control the pace of the game by having possession. last night KC had 27 attempts at goal to our 10 and they also had 61% of the possession. something has to change so we can be the dominant team. but other than that they shocked me going into KC and bringing home the 3 points.

    rumors going round that we will not see grazzini in a fire uniform again. but they are just rumors, something does seem odd about the whole situation.

  • In reply to penapirata:

    Something very odd indeed.

  • Rumor time......

    Is Marco Pappa on his way out too? Reports out of Guatemala say he has an offer on the table from Dutch club FC Heerenveen. The question is will he be gone now or in January?

    Things are going to get interesting.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    If the alleged 3m GBP offer from Wigan hasn't been mentioned here before, it has now.

  • In reply to iron81:

    I'm pretty sure he's not going to Wigan. There might be something to the Dutch rumors though.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Best evidence he's not going to Wigan is if they really offered 3m he'd be gone already. Frank would be crazy to not take that.

    HTIOT agrees with you Re: Holland.

  • I thought Grazzini was signed for the rest of the season.
    Hopefully we can keep Pappa until the end of the season.
    If both stay until the season is over, the Fire is still strong enough to make the playoffs without any additions.
    Losing one would be bad enough, but to lose both would put a severe dent in the club's short term future and the team would need a major transfusion, I wouldn't consider MacDonald a major transfusion.
    Even if Alex is good as some think, it'll take awhile for him to replace Grazzini.
    If the team misses out on the playoffs this year due to the F.O's incompetance, there will be a major drop off in renewals of season ticket holders. The natives are getting very restless.

  • I think it is interesting that more and more Javier Leon is the person making Fire announcements. Does Julian Posada do anything for the team anymore? Maybe Andell and its "ego maniac" owner figured out that he needs someone else running the show. Andrew H wants to prove to MLS that he can run a club better than all the soccer people out there but guess what, he doesn't know how to run a soccer club. It would be fine if he brought in people who were new to running a sports franchise, but he should have brought in people who know soccer. He didn't and it shows. The Grazzini thing is over the top dumb. If the guy wants more money and the Fire are not going to give him more money, and they know he is not going to play unless they give him more money, they should not have extended his contract. Do they really think that they can either force him to play or leverage his deal with someone else and sell him? What do they think, River Plate wants to buy him? These guys really are over the top in how poorly they communicate. They are bad with fans (look at the whole TV thing), they are bad with players (Grazzini), they are bad with the village (ask Bridgeview now what they think), they just don't get that soccer is not a hedgefund.

  • In reply to Krasov:

    Posada handles the off field business, he wouldn't really be involved with player negotiations.

  • I wonder if the team's management woes stems to the fact that the controlling corporation, Andell is located in L.A. and removed from the day to day operation of the club.
    Go to Andell's website and under the term investments, the Fire are listed first, followed by Sports Supply Group (the major supplier of sporting goods under various trade names in the country) and
    PODS (portable storage units)
    Why couldn't Andell sponsor the team's jersey with one of their subsidiaries?
    First of all, I would consider very few teams in the MLS sound investments in the reasonable near future. Most of the top European teams would be broke without major sponsorship of large industrial or financial organizations but the owners love their teams.
    I don't know what Andell expects from this investment, they have to be bleeding money, and I wonder how deep their commitment is to the team and the Chicago area. Maybe they use the losses as a tax
    write-off. I just feel with more local ownership the team would be more competitive. But what hell do I know, look at he Cubs.
    Maybe we can have ivy on the walls of Toyota Park and cry "wait for next year."

  • In reply to lonecoyote:

    Why would they have a subsidiary sponsor another one? That's like taking a dollar out of one pocket and putting into another. There's nothing to be gained from it.

    MLS owners get a bite of the Adidas, SUM, and ESPN pie so their profits aren't solely based on attendance and game day business. It's nothing like the Euro clubs but I dont believe anyone is going broke.

  • Glad the Fire won the Nail Bitter of a game on Friday.
    The passing on the part of the Fire was terrible
    and it really showed how much Grazzini is needed.
    Grazzin wants to stay in Chicago and he is a Fan favorite
    player. Sign him to a multi year contract and pay the Man!!!
    I am shocked how incompetent the Front office is.
    " Get rid of Leon and Posada and replace them with Peter Wilt.
    This would be a cost savings and you would replace two Clowns in
    (Leon and Posada) with someone that knows and loves the game
    and has the savey and competence to grow the Fan base. (Peter Wilt)

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    Not convincing, but a smash and grab is always nice. We'll take games like this anyday. I would like to see when we're on though... would be nice.

  • In reply to waam:

    Not convincing, I agree. On the other hand, the Fire were the only away team to produce a win from the 8 games played this weekend. NY and Seattle managed ties.

    I'm just very anxious about the Grazzini and Pappa situations. Those are 2 very BIG pieces of this team and will leave big holes if they are gone. Robayo has shown improvement and is starting to contribute noticably. I also liked what I saw from Alex. But those two will not immediately cover the loss of Grazzini & Pappa. It takes time.

    I think the Fire might still make the playoffs, but I'm guessing they don't go anywhere in the playoffs. It's not impossible. I just think it's too big a gamble for a club that really needs to convince the fan base they are back THIS year.

  • Grazzini participated in training this morning but declined to speak in detail. He did say that things "are not easy."

  • "not easy" that seems to me that he has been asking for changes in his status either money or something else and he is not happy with the situation. Management cannot force players to be happy, but management needs to understand that playing games with players can lead to unhappy players. Duh! I feel bad for the players who have to deal with these jokers. I like team we have, but I am worried that in a few weeks we won't have that team anymore. Namely, I am worried that Pappa and Grazzini will be gone. I did like what I saw from Alex. He did what he was asked to do which was cause havoc up top to make it difficult for KC to build from the back. He won several balls and started an attack from deep in the KC half a few times. I think there could be a great role for this kid. I'm worried about Rolfe's glass ankles. The guy has got to get taped better or something. His career is going to be shortened if he doesn't figure out a way to heal. He missed a lot of games in Europe because if injury as well. Go Fire!!!

  • Per Klopas, Friedrich left the KC game with cramps and should be ok. Rolfe's ankle knock is also not serious.

  • Robayo suffered a possible separated shoulder on Friday.

    Puppo's right ankle was taped but he did return to training.

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